September 6, 2014
Celebrate Vulture Awareness Day
- as seen by -Natalia Hook
September 6 is International Vulture Awareness Day.
How are you going to celebrate?
It may seem strange to devote a day to vultures, but learn a little about these fascinating birds, you’ll likely come to appreciate them! Vultures play an important part in the ecosystem. They are scavengers, living off carrion, the remains of dead animals. When they get a good meal, they also provide a natural (and crucial) check on the spread of disease.
Many vulture species are endangered or at risk due to human interference, primarily through inadvertent poisoning. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs used on livestock, particularly in Asia and Africa, cause liver and kidney damage in vultures that later feed on the treated animals’ remains. Dead cattle are a significant food source for many species, including the magnificent cinereous vulture pictured here.
Other threats to vultures include food shortages, as native mammals are overhunted and their populations decline, as well as the ingestion of poisoned bait. Some toxic bait is intended for predators, but increasingly poachers are purposefully poisoning vultures, too. This is specifically linked to the illegal ivory trade. Vulture activity is easily spotted at the site of a large food source, such as an elephant carcass. Poachers target and eliminate vultures in order to prevent the timely discovery of their elephant kills by rangers and other wildlife stewards. Sadly, in addition to decimating elephant populations, the ivory trade is taking a bite out of threatened vulture populations, too.
So, what can we do? For starters, oppose the use of dangerous veterinary drugs, such as Diclofenac, in livestock worldwide, and support the protection of vultures and other animals, particularly elephants, in these habitats. Ultimately, the best way to celebrate vultures is to learn about the challenges they are facing and join in the effort to protect them.